DVD Review: Parade’s End

“They could not have picked a worse person to review this.”

Those were the reassuring and entirely accurate words from my girlfriend after finishing Parade’s End.

I’m the guy who has managed to fall asleep during Downton AbbeyPride and Prejudice, and some third British period piece that’s making me drowsy just thinking about it.

And the beginning of Parade’s End had me worried I’d need to load up on Adderall ahead of time.

The five-part BBC-HBO miniseries billed as “spanning from the Edwardian era to the chaos and destructions of World War I” stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Christopher Tietjens—a man so good, he frustrates everyone around him to the point of madness.

[one_half][quote type=”center”]The five-part BBC-HBO miniseries billed as “spanning from the Edwardian era to the chaos and destructions of World War I” stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Christopher Tietjens—a man so good, he frustrates everyone around him to the point of madness.[/quote][/one_half]

And I mean just about everyone, whether it’s government officials frustrated that he won’t tweak the numbers, his wife (played by Rebecca Hall) he married because it was the right thing to do, or even the woman everyone is convinced must be his mistress—a young suffragette Valentine Wannop, played by Adelaide Clemens (who you may remember as Catherine from The Great Gatsby.)

To a certain degree, this even extends to the viewers. Tietjens understands the upcoming conflict that will ensnarl most of Europe in the next few years with a thoroughness that likely comes from narrative hindsight.

The best way to define Tietjens is he’s the reverse Walter White. While viewers find themselves rooting for someone who should by all means be a villain in Breaking Bad, I found myself becoming more and more frustrated with Tietjens’ stoic goody-goodiness. The fact that between Ford Madox Ford’s original 1920s novels and this production a character was crafted to create this much frustration is a testament to how good this is.

Following his journey from proper member of the social hufflebruffle to the foxholes of World War I is like watching a square peg try to fit in a round hole, only to have both become squircles.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this miniseries, especially toward the latter parts. For people who aren’t into the usual pomp and circumstance of Victorian/Edwardian England, hang in there. It’ll be worth it by the end.

But how to watch it?

Do you have HBOGO? Then don’t bother with the DVD release. You’re just paying to have it on disc with zero special features.

The Blu-Ray does promise an NPR interview with writer Tom Stoppard, which might be worth it for Shakespeare In Love fans.

If you don’t already have HBO, then the $25 being asked for on Amazon right now is a very fair price for something that will keep you engaged for five hours.

As a side suggestion for a very Benedict Cumberbatch weekend, pick this up, along with Star Trek Into Darkness and then get caught up on Sherlock on Netflix before season 3 starts, eventually.

Final Fantasy All The Bravest: The cash grab to end all cash grabs

Before putting fingers to keys, I went through many different ways to begin this review. Don’t want to start off the new site with too much hyperbole after all. But after careful thought and consideration, I could only reach this conclusion:

Final Fantasy: All The Bravest is the most asinine cash grab I have ever seen.

From the screenshots provided in the iTunes Store, it looks like you’re buying a competent game. And yes, in theory, it’s competent. Insofar as I have yet to run into a crash or terrible lag issues.

It looks like a Final Fantasy game. It sounds like a Final Fantasy game. But appearances can be deceiving.

HOW TO DUMB DOWN AN RPG

First off a little background: The battle system in Final Fantasy games starting with Final Fantasy IV used what’s called an Active Time Battle system. Instead of both sides getting one attack per turn, a gauge fills up for each character. Once it’s filled, they can attack.

In case you didn’t notice, All The Bravest shares the acronym ATB with the battle system. The game also features the sprites, music and ideas from the first six (well, more than that, but patience) games of the series for the initial $3.99 price tag. That’s where any connection with a Final Fantasy game ends.

Gameplay goes like this: See those enemies over there? Swirl your finger over your guys until they’re dead. Rinse, repeat. There is no strategy, no complexity, just swirl and tap and hope you make it through the fight. Don’t bother worrying about what spell your mage is going to use, that’s been chosen well in advance.

What happens if you don’t succeed? Well the battle scene freezes and you’ll get a character back every three minutes. Considering your party can hold up to 40 characters with enough leveling up and posting how much the game sucks on Twitter, that could be up to two hours.

For the impatient, Square-Enix has you covered. Gold Hourglasses will replenish an entire party. And because they’re such great people, the company spots you three whole hourglasses. And then requires using one to survive the first tutorial battle.

[two_third][box] Throwing this cash grab out there makes that game that held your kid’s fish hostage unless you paid up look saintly [/box][/two_third]

Want more? Fork over 99 cents for three, $1.99 for 8, or for the super-impatient there’s a 20-pack for $2.99.

The game consists of nine worlds with tiny elements borrowed from each game. Your battle path consists of the following in each world:

1) A couple of waves of mooks

2) A mini-boss

3) A few more waves of mooks

4) A boss you probably won’t be able to beat the first time, unless you’ve been grinding properly

Any character development you might remember from those first six Final Fantasy games has been wiped clean to match the complexity of the game.

A WHOLE NEW BATCH OF WORLDS

But what if you’re a masochist like me, bought the game when it first game out, beat Neoexdeath after a few rounds and have nothing left to do? Oh there’s plenty. You can go back and find every last enemy and the useless weapon drops. Or you can go to the part where this cash grab turns simply amazing.

There are three more worlds available to explore: Midgar from VII, Zanarkand from X and Archylte Steppe from XII. Each of these World Tickets cost a mere $3.99. Each. If you’re keeping track at home:

Main game $3.99
First world $3.99
Second world $3.99
Third world $3.99
Total cost so far: $15.96 + Any additional Gold Hourglasses

“Kyle,” you’re asking, “Aren’t you being a little ridiculous? $16 isn’t that much. They charge $15.99 for Final Fantasy IV by itself in the store.”

I’m just getting warmed up.

CHARACTER ASSASSINATION

It would be one thing if the game itself was only $16. But what you’re getting in the base game and in each of the expansions is just the generic classes: the monks, the warriors, the geomancers, etc. The good stuff is still behind the counter.

After all, who wouldn’t want to bring in all-around spike-haired icon Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII? He’s only heralded as being one of the greatest video game characters of all time. He can be all yours for just 99 cents—if you’re lucky.

Additional characters (read: the actual characters from games, not just generic classes) are available for 99 cents each. But to head off people cherry picking their favorite characters, Square-Enix made it random. That 99 cents means you get a chance at the character of your dreams. What kind of chance?

1 in 35.

That’s right, for 99 cents each, you can take a stab and test your luck at getting the character you’re lusting after (and if you are lusting after a character in this series, stop reading and seek help). And if you’re a completionist, that’s just $34.65 out of your pocket.

Let’s add it up again:

Main game $3.99
First world $3.99
Second world $3.99
Third world $3.99
35 characters: $34.65
Total cost so far: $50.61 + Any additional Gold Hourglasses

That’s right, more than $50 on a swirl and tap adventure with no complexity or skill required.

And just to spit in your eye, it’s really easy to acquire money in this game. You can’t spend it on anything, but it’s easy to rack up more than 5 milion gil by the end of it.

Maybe if Square-Enix didn’t charge for the base game and made the characters and/or hourglasses purchasable with the gil accumulated in the game, this wouldn’t sting as much. But throwing this cash grab out there makes that game that held your kid’s fish hostage unless you paid up look saintly.

SCREENSHOT GALLERY